Special Series

Special Series Derivatives

Vantage Special Type 1, four-door saloon

In production: 1996

Chassis numbers: 70051, 70053 & 70088 (production)

Following on from the commission to build the Virage-based Lagonda saloon and five-door shooting brakes, a Far East Asian customer approached Works Service for a totally new bespoke four-door high performance saloon. As the supercharged Vantage had taken over from the 6.3 as the top model of the range, it made sense to use the Vantage as the base for the high performance four-door car.

The customer approved the design sketches of a stretched four-door Vantage and also the development of an even more powerful 600 bhp version of the 5.3 litre twin supercharged engine. Both the silhouette and exterior detailing of the saloon followed closely from the two-door Vantage, whilst the interiors were unique with extensive use of chrome fittings, bespoke switchgear and exotic woods. The clocks were by Asprey as were the pens and writing slopes. To cope with the extreme heat in the Far East, a specially developed Nippondenso air-conditioning unit was used. In addition, and for the same reason, the glass was either darkly tinted or even mirrored to keep the cabin cool when left in the blazing sun. Although not needed for use in the Far East, heaters were also fitted to all of the exported cars. There was a strong possibility and it was assumed that, having been built with right hand drive, the cars would one day return to the UK where a heater in winter is a desirable feature.

As the individual rear seats were electrically operatedwith a host of power sapping features, a second battery was installed. The six-spoke OZ alloy wheels were carried over from the two-door Vantage but were especially finished in bright chrome.

Despite the four-door coachwork, the Special Type I saloon was badged as an Aston Martin in defiance of the previous decision surrounding the badging of the four-door Virage cars as Lagondas.

Only three Type I saloons were made, all right hand drive and with the four-speed automatic transmission. Even though AML may have wanted to put the car into limited production, as the styling work was done exclusively for the client, this was sadly out of the question.

Vantage Special Type II, four-door saloon

In production: 1996

Chassis numbers: 70092, 70105 & 70145 (production)

Following on from the Type I which was a stretched Vantage, the Far East Asian client was offered and ordered another group of stretched Vantage four-door saloons. But instead of following the styling of the production two-door, the Type II had distinctive and unique styling based on a quarter scale clay model styled by Mike Loasby himself.

The outcome was a more rounded high waisted saloon, with a tapering boot yet still with the familiar six headlight front. The grille was highly polished chrome to match the bright finish of the wheels. The rear brake/tail lights were carried over from the two-door car but the indicators, whilst still round, were of smaller diameter and were especially made for the Type II.

Three Vantage Type II saloons were completed, all to V600 specification, right hand drive and with automatic transmission. A plan for a shooting brake based on the Vantage Type II never proceeded beyond the design stage.

Vantage Special Series AM3, coachwork by Carrozzeria Pininfarina

In production: May 1996 - July 1997, then delivery to the customer in 1998

Chassis numbers: 70500 - 2 (production)

The AM3 is quite unusual for an Aston Martin as it was styled by Pininfarina of Turin, Italy, arguably the world’s finest carrozzeria; a company of course synonymous with one of AML’s arch rivals, Ferrari. It was at the request of the client from Far East Asia that the carrozzeria contacted AML with the proposal of a collaborative project. This involved AML supplying complete rolling and running chassis to coachbuilders, Coggiola near Turin, to have them then clothed in unique coachwork with bespoke interiors styled by Pininfarina. The company offered five possible designs to the client, AM1 to AM5, and designs 3 and 4 went on to be produced. It is unlikely that the renderings for the discarded three designs will ever be made public.

AML built up five right hand drive Vantage rolling chassis (70500-4), known as delete build chassis within production on the eastern side of Tickford Street. These were then passed to Works Service on the opposite side of the road where they were upgraded to automatic V600 specification with modifications to engine, suspension, and braking before being shipped to Italy. Pininfarina also took delivery of a complete V600 Vantage, presumed but not proven to be the test mule 70091, and an un-numbered plain chassis to allow the designers in Italy to mock up the interior.

The design of the finished AM3 was quite unusual and is perhaps the most radical of the Vantage Special Series cars. The very odd and distinguishing feature of the vehicle was a composite nose cone finished in black which encompassed the lights and grille, not so dissimilar to that on a rubber bumpered MGB. The rear ended with a Kamm tail with the overall shape reminiscent of the traditional AM grille which was oddly absent from the nose cone. The six-spoke alloy wheels were unique to the Pininfarina cars and were designed in house by them. Perhaps the only discernible AM feature of AM3 was the classic wing vent.

Once completed in Italy, the AM3s were delivered direct to the customer in Far East Asia. So far as is known, the cars have never returned to the UK although at least one AM3 was tested at Goodyear's Miraval test track in Southern France with the assistance of engineers from AML.

The entire project was carried out in compete secrecy although in 1998, an article did appear in the Autocar magazine (2nd September 1998) describing a vast car collection that had been built up in a small but wealthy Far East Asian state. Alongside photos of coachbuilt Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and AMG Mercedes were pictures showing a black AM3, possibly photographed whilst at the Miraval test track.

The Registrars cannot be absolutely certain that chassis 70500-2 became AM3s as it is impossible to know for sure in what order Pininfarina had the cars built up in. But it is of interest that after a period of using production chassis numbers on the earlier four-door saloons, AML began a new 705** series for the Special Series cars.

Vantage Special Series AM4, coachwork by Carrozzeria Pininfarina

In production: May 1996 - July 1997, then delivery to the customer in 1998

Chassis numbers: 70503 - 4, plus a re-bodied production Vantage, 70091 (production)

AM4 is the second special series Vantage designed by Pininfarina and bodied in Italy. It is best described as looking like an oversized DB7 on the V600 Vantage chassis, more conventional than the AM3 and more recognisable as an Aston Martin. Special distinguishing features were the single piece clamshell bonnet with twin triangular power bulges, and the single piece smoked covering for the rear lights which appeared to be in the familiar shape of the traditional AM style grille but inverted.

The interior the AM3 and AM4 both used the familiar Lincoln Town Car sourced air-bagged steering wheel and a comprehensive display of white faced instrument dials arranged in a straight line along the dashboard. The AM4 dashboard facia was a different shape to that of AM3 and many interior facings were gloss painted in the body colour.

Both a red and a black AM4 were also shown in the 1998 edition of Autocar. The author of the article must have had some difficulty with correctly identifying the cars as the caption indicated that there were three distinct types, AM2, 3 and 4. The article also claimed that each of the six Pininfarina cars cost in the region of £600,000 which would appear entirely plausible.

In all, three AM4s were built, two were right hand drive, automatic, V600 rolling chassis and a third on a V600 Vantage mule, 70091, used during the development of the Special Series cars.

Vantage Special Series I

In production: 1998

Chassis numbers: 70505 - 7 (production)

In addition to the special coachbuilt two-door Vantages, styled by Pininfarina, Works Service was also commissioned by the client from Far East Asia to build a short series of unique sports cars.

The initial design of the Series I by a bespoke British Design House was followed by one from Mike Loasby who began by constructing a quarter scale model which was further adapted by Shaun Rush to fit onto the Vantage rolling chassis. Three delete build chassis were put together in production before being taken across the road to Works Service where the build process would continue. The design is considered by many to be the best looking with the cleanest styling of all the Special Series cars and from head on and front quarter view, had a look not dissimilar to the DB4 GT Zagato which had been Kingsley Riding-Felce’s brief. An interesting feature of the Series I was the use of DB7 doors which also allowed the use of frameless door glass. The wheels were provided by the British manufacturer, Dymag, and were unique to the Special Series cars although a similar design went on to be used on the prototype Vanquish.

Three of the Special Series Is were built - all to right hand drive, V600, automatic specification.

Vantage Special Series II

In production: 1997 - 8

Chassis numbers: 70508 - 10 (production)

A second coachbuilt version of the Vantage was also commissioned by the Far East Asian client. Work began on the Series II cars in mid 1997 using the basic chassis with the same hard points as the Series I. It had a more sophisticated design than the previous car with prominent twin headlights behind shaped Perspex covers. The bonnet scoop bore a close resemblance to that on an early version of the DB4. The sills were more pronounced than in the Series I and were set off with polished metal covers.

All three cars were built to right hand drive, V600, automatic specification. It is now believed that one or perhaps all three of the Special Series IIs remain in the UK within private collections.

Vantage Special Series III

In production: 1998

Chassis numbers: 70511 - 70513 (production)

The client from Far East Asia also ordered three Vantages to a third bespoke design from AML. The cars, known as the Series III reached the body-in-white stage before the project was cancelled when it became known that the client was unable to complete the purchase. The three partially completed cars, it is believed, were subsequently destroyed due to the confidentially and exclusivity agreement with the overseas client. The three chassis were numbered 70511 to 70513, although Dowsey in his book states that one of the Series IIIs was rebuilt from an engineering car 70091. The Registrar has now ascertained that in fact it was Pininfarina that received the engineering car for the AM3/4 project.

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